Campaigners today say the vote for the first ever global treaty to bring the international arms trade under control marks “an incredible moment.”
"For many regions affected by armed violence, including the Pacific, this treaty represents a major step forward in securing a safer future."
International aid agency Oxfam, a leading member of the Control Arms Coalition, says the landmark vote sends a clear signal to gunrunners and unscrupulous governments who supply human rights abusers that their time is up.
After six years of diplomatic negotiations, and more than 10 years of campaigning from civil society, governments at the United Nations voted for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by a resounding majority (154 votes YES – 3 votes NO, 23 Abstentions). The treaty enshrines in new international law a set of clear rules for all international transfers of arms and ammunitions.
The vote at the UN General Assembly was held just five days after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked the Treaty’s adoption by consensus in a tense session on the last day of the Final Conference on the ATT.
The Treaty will create binding obligations for governments to assess all arms transfers to against the risk that weapons will be used for human rights abuses, terrorism, transnational organised crime or violations of humanitarian law. It will require governments to refuse any transfers of weapons if there is a major risk countries would use them to violate human rights or commit war crimes.
Luke Roughton, Oxfam New Zealand’s Control Arms Campaigner, said, “For many regions affected by armed violence, including the Pacific, this treaty represents a major step forward in securing a safer future. The political commitment from Pacific leaders to negotiate for a robust Arms Trade Treaty came to fruition today when eleven states from the region, including New Zealand, voted in favour of the treaty's adoption.
“We now call on those Pacific states and on New Zealand to see that commitment through, by signing, ratifying and implementing the treaty.”
Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s Head of Arms Control, said, “At last we have a legally binding international treaty that will regulate the world’s deadliest business. The agreement of the Arms Trade Treaty sends a clear message to arms dealers who supply war lords and dictators that their time is up. They will no longer be able to operate and arm themselves with impunity.
“Oxfam has campaigned for this treaty for more than a decade as conflict and armed violence are major drivers of poverty. Reducing the amount of weapons and bullets that are fuelling conflicts across the world will protect people, but also give them a chance to build a better life.
“It is positive that after consensus was blocked, states moved swiftly to adopt the treaty by voting. It is right that the will of the majority wins out, not the tiny minority of skeptics who were intent on wrecking the process.”
Oxfam is calling on all states that have supported the treaty to prioritise signing and implementing the treaty to the highest possible standards. The agency said that all governments must commit to passing the necessary national legislation in order to bring the treaty into force as soon as possible.
Conflict severely derails development in poor countries. Oxfam estimates armed conflict costs Africa around US$18 billion per year – money that could be spent on essential services and improving people's lives.
High-profile supporters of Oxfam's campaign for an Arms Trade Treaty include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and actors Helen Mirren and Djimon Hounsou.